Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen's sophomore CD for ECM, "The Ground," requires attentive listening, given its sparse pause-and-reflect sensibility.

Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen's sophomore CD for ECM, "The Ground," requires attentive listening, given its sparse pause-and-reflect sensibility. His lyrically memorable and passionately sober originals rarely break from the slow-tempo, hushed-toned zone that could relegate the disc to a dinner-jazz or meditation-time existence. But the melodic beauty and expressive execution (acoustic bassist Harald Johnsen and drummer Jarle Vespestad flawlessly complement Gustavsen's minimalist delivery) transform the album into more than sonic wallpaper. The key is how the trio's emotion dictates the arc of delivery in lieu of following post-bop improvisational guideposts. Bright spots include the moving hymn of sorrow "Colours of Mercy" and the aurora-hued "Edges of Happiness," with its hint of a sway and tinge of the blues.—DO

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